Author: Gumi

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The D-rank hunter, who was the leader of the party, gathered everyone in one place.

He double-checked their basic information like confirming hunter licenses and primary skills.

The party consisted of one D-rank hunter, two E-rank hunters, and four F-rank hunters.

It was still a good combo without Evie, an E-rank hunter. With a D-rank hunter, if lucky, today’s injuries might end with just minor abrasions.

The atmosphere was quite amicable thanks to the leader sharing cereal bars with nuts and drinks with everyone.

Evie munched on the cereal bar, hoping this unsolicitedly warm atmosphere would last until the end.

“Let’s carefully review the dungeon information while having snacks. I’m sure you all know, but there’s nothing wrong with being cautious.”

He was right. Even in the lowest-level dungeon, a moment of carelessness could be fatal. The group gathered at the dungeon entrance checking the information according to the leader’s words.

Evie also brought up the information in front of her. A transparent screen appeared, providing a brief description of the dungeon.

Hurem’s Orchard F

Hurem, a legendary farmer with unrivaled fruit cultivation skills. The fruit he grows is known for its exceptional taste, always in high demand. However, some troublesome beings keep stealing his fruits. Protect the orchard from the intruders, and Hurem will show his gratitude.

▫️ Clear condition: Defeat all monsters invading the orchard.
▫️ Dungeon boss: One among the Sugar Monkey Chief, Ice Rabbit Chief, or Horned Hippo Chief will randomly appear.
▫️ Allowed entry number: No limit.

Among the F-level dungeons, Hurem’s Orchard was one of the least challenging, even for newly awakened hunters.

Of course, being a Hunter always involves risking one’s life, so it couldn’t be considered completely safe. However, the likelihood of dying in this particular dungeon was low.

Evie pored over the dungeon’s information, line by line. She read it several times, cramming it into her head.

She always felt nervous before entering a dungeon, so it was reassuring to review what she already knew. Suddenly, one of her skills popped into her mind.

Bright Eyes C
You can see what others cannot.
▫️ Stackable
▫️ Mana cost: 3

‘You can see what others cannot. Will that apply to the system window?’

A sudden thought crossed her mind. It was a remarkable skill that consumed a significant 25% of Evie’s mana, but she was curious.

‘It might even reveal hidden items or quests.’

There were occasional cases of finding items inside dungeons without hunting monsters. It could be through finding hidden passages or rooms, or quests that unlocked upon fulfilling certain conditions.

Evie used the skill with faint hope while looking at the system window.

‘Bright Eyes.’

The system window remained unchanged, for at least a few seconds.

“—What?”

Evie muttered in a small voice, but the party members were preoccupied with their own business, paying her no mind. Wondering if some dust had gotten into her eyes, Evie rubbed her eyes gently.

The very last line of the dungeon information.

Something new was about to appear below it. Evie blinked a few times as the screen seemed to glitch momentarily as if an error occurred. But it soon returned to its normal state.

Hurem’s Orchard F

Hurem, a legendary farmer with unrivaled fruit cultivation skills. The fruit he grows is known for its exceptional taste, always in high demand. However, some troublesome beings keep stealing his fruits. Protect the orchard from the intruders, and Hurem will show his gratitude.

▫️ Clear condition: Defeat all monsters invading the orchard.
▫️ Dungeon boss: One among the Sugar Monkey Chief, Ice Rabbit Chief, or Horned Hippo Chief will randomly appear.
▫️ Allowed entry number: No limit.

▒▒ not ▒▒ more ▒▒ ▒▒▒ . ▒▒ ▒▒▒ ▒▒ or ▒ ▒▒ ▒▒▒ ▒▒ ▒ppear▒ ▒▒▒ ▒ ▒▒.

Evie’s eyes sparkled.

‘There really is something there! Do I need to use the skill again to see it fully?’

It was written that the skill “Bright Eyes” could be used in stacks. However, Evie hesitated. Using the skill one more time would consume nearly half her mana.

The lowest-grade mana potions in her inventory cost about $150 a bottle. 

In Evie’s case, drinking the lowest-grade mana potion would restore half her mana. Was this information really worth that much?

‘Bright Eyes.’

Obviously. she must see it no matter what.

It was a well-known fact that even S-grade items could be found in F-level dungeons. Of course, an S-grade item found in an F-level dungeon wouldn’t be of much use to higher-level hunters. Still, S-grade was S-grade.

If things went well, she might be able to live a life of leisure.

‘If that happens, I’ll never come to a place like this again.’

As long as a decent item came out, farewell forever to these annoying dungeons, all the dangers of injuries, threats to life, and terrifying monsters.

A comfortable old age and peaceful life awaited Evie. It felt like her lifelong dream, which she had nurtured since her time in the orphanage, was finally coming true.

Just like the first time she used it, the system screen glitched and the text distorted. After waiting patiently, the hidden information soon was revealed. However, the sentence at the end was far from what Evie had hoped for.

Do not enter more than 7 people. There is a chance that the Second Gate of the same or higher level may appear.

“Second… Gate…?”

Evie muttered to herself in a whisper. Her face stiffened with tension, unable to blink.

What do you mean…

It was just an F-level dungeon.

So ridiculous.

Second Gate.

A phenomenon where another dungeon opens up after clearing one. Up until now, there has been no explanation for the cause of the Second Gate.

Based on the case studies reported in the media so far, the commonalities were that the difficulty of the second dungeon that opened was greatly increased than the first, and the phenomenon only occurred in C-level dungeons or higher.

There were no reports of the Second Gate phenomenon occurring in D-level or E-level dungeons. And yet, for it to appear in a mere F-level dungeon.

More than that, in dungeons where the Second Gate appeared…

‘There were few survivors.’

But none of them returned intact.

Furthermore, the average rank of the hunters who survived and returned from the Second Gate was A. There were no survivors below B rank.

‘This doesn’t make sense. No, what’s even more strange is that such incredible information can be obtained through a C-grade skill. The condition for it to appear is too easy. Just because there are a few more people, the Second Gate opens? That can’t be true. The possibility that my skill went wrong…’

Besides, there was another strange thing.

In [Hurem’s Orchard], typically a party of around 7 to 10 people would enter to harvest fruits. If entering the dungeon with more than 7 people is the condition for the Second Gate to appear, then why hadn’t the Second Gate occurred up until now?

While Evie was confused, the rest of the party members, excluding her, were listening to the leader’s words after reading all the information about the dungeon.

“As you all know, Hurlem’s Orchard doesn’t spawn very dangerous monsters. You know that the most common monster there is the Sugar Monkey. The Sugar Monkey isn’t an aggressive monster, so if you throw fruit at it, it’ll let its guard down. Let’s take them down one by one during that time. If possible, let’s not use too much fruit. You know it’s all money, right?”

“Yes, of course.”

“Then we should pick one fruit and slice it before using it.”

The people laughed and played along with the leader’s playful yet sincere tone. The fruits harvested from Hurem’s Orchard were always in demand due to their high sweetness.

While the income from it wasn’t as good as top items, it was still quite substantial.

As everyone else chattered, the leader approached Evie, who was sitting alone with a pale face, and spoke to her.

“You don’t need to worry that much. Even without attack skills, this dungeon is really easy. Just apply buffs properly.”

“···Yes? Ah, no, it’s not that···.”

Snapped out of her thoughts by the sudden voice, Evie jolted. The leader looked at her questioningly. Evie hesitated, then spoke in caution.

“Um, excuse me, is there anyone here who has scouting-type skills?”

“Scouting-type skills?”

The party members sent Evie unpleasant looks for her out-of-the-blue question but still answered her.

None of the party members, including the leader, had scouting-type skills. Evie glanced nervously at the gate, then spoke with an unsure voice.

“I, um, have a skill that’s similar to scouting. But when I used that skill, it showed that if more than 7 people enter this dungeon…the Second Gate may appear…”

Evie’s voice, already small, grew even smaller as she continued speaking. The party members looked at her perplexed at first, then soon replied irritably.

“Ah…Why would you say something unlucky even before entering?”

“Second Gate doesn’t just randomly appear. There’s no record of them below C-level dungeons.”

“This dungeon has already been thoroughly inspected by our country. Its mana flux is even lower than other F-level dungeons.”

“Forget it, let’s just go. We’re losing time.”

The others, including the leader, were ready to enter immediately. Evie urgently spoke up.

“Then can’t we at least ask the dungeon management office upfront to recheck the level once more? Or maybe reduce the number of people…”

The others scrunched their faces at Evie’s words. Eventually, someone burst out angrily.

“Why would we reduce the number of people! The country already completed the inspection!”

“If you don’t want to enter, then go home. Don’t ruin the mood before we even start raiding.”

“If your skill is that great, then why aren’t you in a guild? Why are you just running around low F-level dungeons?”

Evie bit her lip hard. If she dropped out, her living expenses for the month would immediately become a problem.

Though she’d auctioned off the items from the last dungeon, that money wouldn’t be accessible for two weeks. Her monthly rent and bills exceeded $1000, and she only had $2000 in her account.

She had spoken out of panic and anxiety, suggesting to reduce the number of people but if Evie were in their shoes, she would have said the same thing.

To suddenly decrease numbers right before raiding, and based on uncertain information at that.

Moreover, Evie wasn’t the leader of this party but just an insignificant E-rank hunter.

“Alright everyone, calm down first. If you lose your strength before even entering, won’t that be disadvantageous for you all?”

The leader soothed the angry people and approached Evie.

“Well…if you’re too anxious, you don’t have to participate in this raid. But you’ll have to pay the penalty fee.”

“…No, I’ll go too. I’m sorry for causing trouble for no reason.”

Evie bowed her head and apologized to each person individually. In her heart, she wanted to drop out, but she didn’t have the money to pay the penalty fee. If she withdrew the raid last minute like this, as stated in the contract, she’d have to pay a portion of the dungeon party fee, which was almost double her daily wage for the day.

Once Evie finished apologizing, the leader sighed and spoke up.

“Everyone done checking your gears? Then let’s go in.”

The leader entered the shimmering purple barrier first, followed by the others. Finally, Evie, standing in front of the gate, suppressed her fearful heart.

‘It is said to be a possibility, not a definite occurrence. And is it even plausible that I can see something that the government or guilds can’t?’

Right before entering, Evie reviewed the dungeon information once more. To her relief, the ominous sentence from earlier was nowhere to be seen. 

Evie sighed, patted her chest, and slowly took a step forward. Only after Evie fully entered the dungeon did the shimmering purple barrier flicker briefly before returning to normal.

***

Clear, refreshing air.

The scent of fresh grass and the fragrant, sweet aroma of ripe fruits.

Evie, who had entered the dungeon beyond the gate, took a deep breath. Her stomach churning with anxiety and nervousness slightly relieved by the feeling of being cleansed from the inside out.

As befitting its name [Hurem’s Orchard], the scenery inside the dungeon was not unfamiliar. Just as if someone had been working moments ago, there was a ladder near the fruit trees, and a straw hat lying next to it.

From afar, a small, crudely constructed gazebo could be seen.

Shading themselves from the piercing sunlight with their hands, Evie and her party members surveyed the surrounding terrain.

The fruit trees were surprisingly small, about Evie’s height. Despite their diminutive size, the plump fruits hanging from the trees were larger and more appetizing than those seen outside.

Kirik, Kirik –

Kee-gee-gee, kee-gee-gee.

Round heads popped out from the trees.

It was a group of Sugar Monkeys. Resembling long-armed monkeys in appearance, their entire bodies were white and their distinctive feature was their preference for sweet things.

Though the small monkey-like monsters’ eyes met Evie and her party members, they did not attack but just stared blankly.

The Sugar Monkeys sneakily plucked fruits from their hands, taking a few bites before swiftly tossing them to the ground, only to pick up new fruits again.

They moved from tree to tree, preventing anyone from enjoying the fruits to their full extent.

The party leader gestured at Evie.

Evie nodded and applied buffs increasing the movement speed, attack power, and evasion rate of the party members. Using three skills simultaneously made her head feel dizzy for a moment. Along with extreme fatigue, her vision blurred and her insides churned.

It meant her mana was depleted…

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